There was plenty we didn’t know about childrearing when T arrived. And – there was plenty we didn’t know about T.
Very early on I became aware of the fact T seemed to be able to read my thoughts. The first time it really struck me was when I had my back to him in the bathroom. I was washing my hands and he was unrolling the toilet paper all over the floor. I distinctly remember thinking I hope he doesn’t notice my keys on the tank and throw them into the…SPLASH!
He threw my keys in the toilet! (insert toddler laughing here)
There were several of these events where I would think don’t do THAT and sure enough he would do exactly THAT. I asked a lady in the neighborhood who is an all-knowing-mom-type and had babysat him on occasion.
“Isn’t it crazy how kids seem to read your mind? I gave her a couple examples.
She responded rather dryly, “Yea, I have never heard of that.”
I then chalked this behavior up to the fact that he and I had a special bond. I realize this theory makes me sort of a narcissist. And, really – what’s so special about fishing keys out of a toilet?
There was the time I leaned over to read the printing on his pajamas that he had recently got as a gift. The design was series of police cars intertwined with caution tape. The text I squinted to read was: Do Not Cross Police Line.
T looked up at me. He than traced the line on the cloth with his finger and said (clear as a bell): “Do Not Cross Police Line.” He smiled at me as he walked away.
“Hey you! You’re not freaking me out. Just to be clear, OK?” (insert toddler laughing here)
There was the time he yelled, “Bess ou!” (Bless you) from the other room BEFORE I sneezed.
There was the time I was awaken in the night by his voice coming from his bedroom.
He sounded like he was greeting someone, “Oh, hi!”
There was a long mumbly conversation I couldn’t make out. He didn’t seem upset so I stayed in bed listening. The next morning when I walked into his room he greeted me making a idiosyncratic hand gesture I had only seen my dad use. At that time my dad had been dead for nine years.
Ward and I found T’s uncanny ability to know things bafflingly but we never talked to each other about it. It was almost three years before we broached the subject with each other. I was reading the book Down Syndrome Parenting 101: Must Have Advice For Making Your Life Easier (Natalie Hale, Woodbine Press).
Ms. Hale parent, advocate, educator and trailblazer talks quite frankly about this phenomenon with regard to her son and other children with Down syndrome. Thank you, Natalie! I am not a freak. My kid is not a freak. (As an side the whole book ROCKS. If you are a parent – buy it. If you are a aunt, uncle, grandparent, friend of the family buy it. She has a great vibe.)
Any hoodle, Ward and I were finally swapping stories about our little mind reader. We found both of us had censored our thoughts over the years concerned Thorin would respond to what we were thinking. “We’re not crazy!” Always nice for parents to say that to each other. We also agreed not to talk about it to other people. (Except for my sister. I have the Sister Rule – I can’t tell anyone but Betty.)
Shortly, after our bonding experience we attended a conference. The keynote speaker was a noted behavioral expert on children with Down syndrome. His presentation was informative and respectful. I was emboldened to ask him “The Question”. I turned to Ward, “I’m going to do it!”
“Please don’t. Don’t. Don’t.”
“It will be OK.”
“I have to.”
My hand shot up. The speaker pointed to me.
I stood up, “I am a little nervous here. My husband and I said we wouldn’t talk to other people about this but have you ever heard about children with Down syndrome having for a lack of a better word ESP? You know the ability to know things…”
He shook his head in this slow way (Like, You strange lady how pathetic you think such a thing.).
“No, I haven’t ever heard of that.”
As I was sitting back down Ward reached out and put his hand on my back.
Then this lady stood up. As she was raising her hand in the air she asked, “What parents here have had that experience?”
Five or six mothers raised their hands as they looked our way. “Double high five!” as T would say.
Walking around in the lobby afterwards a women came up to me. She gave me several similar examples from her own life with their son. She also told me, “My husband and I have an agreement to not talk about this with other people. There is already enough people who don’t understand us why add to it?”
Here’s to adding to the confusion.
I believe what is so often described as “how happy people with Down syndrome are” is really something more meaningful. I believe it is ‘being present’ in the world. It is living in-the-now. That place the rest of us try to get to through religion, meditation, therapy, drugs, other people…
I believe our children may have some greater and more intense connection to god, the universe, the void, love or how ever you understand that place.
I believe our children personify the uncluttered mind.*
I believe our children have souls that are unfettered by the mundane.
I believe our children are not simple but devoutly complex.
And, seriously, dude, no one calls the Dalai Lama fucking ‘happy’ they call him fucking ‘divine’.
* I have to give props to my friend Kay, who has a son with Down syndrome, for telling me about the “uncluttered mind”. She and I have had more than one conversation about the greatness in our boys vs. the limitations. In fact, I should thank her for giving me the courage to write this post. Thanks, Kay!